Katy Perry, YMCA and songs from “Aladdin” could be heard late Friday night, as volunteers and participants from BYU Experience sang and danced the night away.
Program director Audrey Blake said BYU Experience is a service organization that gives participants a two-day taste of what it’s like to be a student at BYU. Participants come from around Utah Valley and have cognitive and intellectual disabilities such as down syndrome or autism. There were also participants from Oregon and Wyoming.
“I have fun with my friends that come to this,” said Jamie Taylor, a volunteer at the Y-Serve office. “They’re lots of fun to be with. I just like to have more fun with them.”
Friday’s activities included pictures with Cosmo and the cheerleaders, a Halloween carnival and karaoke.
“They love dancing, they love singing, they know the words to every song,” Blake said. “They just love getting on the stage and performing.”
On Saturday participants played games, watched the Bean Museum’s reptile show and learned some ballet from the BYU Theatre Ballet dancers.
“The ballerinas came and they were all dressed up,” Blake said. “They taught them how to twirl, how to do plies and how to point their toes. The boys kept saying how beautiful they were.”
At the conclusion of the two days, everyone watched a slideshow of the event.
“They love seeing themselves up on the big screen and they just love being on stage,” Blake said.
BYU Experience occurs once every semester. The next one will be winter semester in February.
By the end of the two-day experience, participants each had a volunteer buddy. These buddies were not assigned to the participants, but after mingling with the participants, each volunteer had found a new friend. For Brittany England, a freshman studying biochemistry, having a buddy was her favorite part.
“Just talking to her and getting to know her,” England said. “It was really cool to feel her spirit.”
Both participants and volunteers had a great time over the two days they spent together. Many made new friends, as well as reconnected with old friends they’ve made through involvement with BYU Experience.
“It was more of a party, I don’t even know if I’d call it service,” said Jordan Whitehead, a freshman studying biochemistry. “We just had a really good time.”